Bertie receives $250,000 grant

Published 8:40 am Tuesday, September 15, 2015

WINDSOR – It was said once of a ‘playground’: “If you build it, they will come.”

And now, no one can be excluded.

Trillium Health Resources, formerly East Carolina Behavioral Health, has awarded Bertie County Parks and Recreation Department $250,000 for a Play-Together Construction Grant for Assessable Playgrounds.  The idea is to include people with special needs and disabilities.

All the money is going towards the Bertie County Recreation Complex playground, located at 1538 South King Street in Windsor. Once completed, the facility will have wheelchair swings, double sized ramps, and other wheelchair accessible equipment.

Earlier this month, a grant of $225,000 was presented to the Town of Ahoskie Parks & Recreation Department for upgrades to special-needs accessibility for the playground/park at Miracle on Main Street.  Other grant presentations will take place as Phase-1 of the funds is distributed.

Bertie County Parks and Recreation Director Donna Mizelle made the announcement of the grant at the county’s Board of Commissioners meeting in Windsor on Tuesday, Sept. 8.

“When they called and told me the amount, my mouth kind of hit the desk,” joked Mizelle, “I had to ask her to repeat it one more time.

“We were awarded this through Trillium Health Resources for the kids of Bertie County,” she stated.

“I see we got $25,000 more than they did over in Hertford County,” said Commission chairman Ronald “Ron” Wesson to chuckles and snickers from the crowd in the Commissioner’s Room.

Bertie is one of 11 counties receiving playground grants from Trillium, an agency that manages mental health, substance use and intellectual/development disability services in a 24-country area in eastern NC.  Funding for the Play Together grants is a result of savings from operating as a Medicaid 1915 Waiver Site.

“By managing Medicaid funding and services locally, Trillium has been able to achieve cost efficiencies in the past year,” said Amy Corbitt, project manager, Research and Development, Trillium, in an earlier interview. “We are so pleased to be able to take those savings and invest them back into the communities we serve.”

Reinvestment dollars were allocated to help communities across Trillium’s service area, which stretches from Virginia to South Carolina along the North Carolina coast, develop accessible playgrounds that allow young people of all abilities to come together.

“Within the scope of our services, we see how community and camaraderie help create productive, meaningful life,” continued Corbitt. “Our clients, both families and individuals, benefit from a connection to others. These playgrounds will do just that – encourage people of all abilities to come together without many of the hindrances they face in daily life.”

“Amy said she was very pleased with our complex and said it was just a beautiful place,” continued Mizelle.

The director said she had already contacted Landscape Structures, of Delano, Minnesota, one of  the nation’s leading providers of affordable kids play structures and innovative outdoor play equipment.

“They’ve brought me some books and brochures,” Mizelle said, “and I’ve met with the county manager and we both have some of the same ideas of what we’d like to see in the playground, but nothing’s official yet.”

Mizelle said the check presentation at the complex will be on Wednesday, Sept. 16 at 1 p.m. and invited the Commissioners to attend.

“She (Corbitt) will have our contracts at that time and go over more detail with me at that date,” she noted.

County Manager Scott Sauer presented some rough draft sketches and raw photos of the Complex for the Commissioners’ review, but invited more input from the officials.

“These (photos) are here solely as a concept,” Sauer said. “In the end, this could end up looking very different and if you have ideas about what kind of structures and amenities would be useful for special needs patrons we’d like for you to include them.”

Mizelle said while nothing has been approved, the new construction will take place off the back of the existing complex, and that the facility’s existing sidewalks and concrete foot paths would probably be tied in to the new area.  The current bathrooms and comfort stations there are currently handicap assessable.

“This is a big grant, so let’s make sure that we get the most out of it,” said Wesson.

Construction on the playground must be completed at the complex by July of 2016.  Mizelle said meeting that deadline should not be a problem.

“Being as that land is just as clear as this desk, I don’t think (deadline) will be a problem,” Mizelle said. “It’s a big process for us, and I’m excited.”